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sport hymn Hard to imagine a more comforting or life-affirming message than Gerry Marsden’s 'You'll Never Walk Alone'

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Liverpool football club supporters sing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' on the Kop at Anfield

Liverpool football club supporters sing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' on the Kop at Anfield

AFP via Getty Images

Liverpool football club supporters sing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' on the Kop at Anfield

IT rose up like a desert storm, a sudden, electrifying tornado of Mersey defiance, Liverpool’s crimson tribe declining to surrender to their Istanbul torment and choosing instead to fill the night sky with Gerry Marsden’s soaring aria.

For all of ten half-time minutes, as, down below in the bowels of the Ataturk Stadium, Rafa Benitez scrambled to re-light a torch most of us assumed fatally extinguished, it continued.

“Walk on through the wind

Walk on through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown…”

Here, in a magnificent triumph of defiance, was the travelling Kop asserting identity and spirit, a vast scarlet force unbroken by a scoreboard that announced an unfolding humiliation, Milan three goals to the good 45 minutes into the 2005 Champions League final.

“Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart…”

And then, a spine-tingling crescendo sung in capital letters, its passionate voltage sufficient to defibrillate even a creature made of clay.

“And you’ll never walk alone

YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE.”

Even for the neutral, the emotion ran as deep as the nearby and mighty Bosporus.

Liverpool would stage one of sport’s finest uprisings in the second half, breaking from their chains to claim the European Cup for a fifth time. But there are those of us who believe the real Miracle of Istanbul was found in the sense of place that fuelled that ceaseless half-time hymn of hope.

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Dublin greats Bobby Doyle, Kevin Moran and Paddy Cullen shoulder the remains of Anton O'Toole

Dublin greats Bobby Doyle, Kevin Moran and Paddy Cullen shoulder the remains of Anton O'Toole

Dublin greats Bobby Doyle, Kevin Moran and Paddy Cullen shoulder the remains of Anton O'Toole

The ancient but imperishable memory came racing across the years when news broke over the weekend of Marsden’s passing at the age of 78.

It was a reminder of the how sport and music and fellowship are so gloriously entangled.

Anybody who has surrendered to the beauty and torment that comes with giving a great chunk of their life to supporting a team, any team, will agree that few things compare with that moment when a spark of sound ignites an unforgettable fire of terrace or barstool song.

It is an adrenalin rush, a fuzzy feeling of camaraderie and companionship, but it is so much more than that.

It is a religious experience. A celebration of something bigger than us. A love poem.

I have written many times about the 2019 funeral of Anton O’Toole, Dublin gladiator, the loveliest of men, a dear friend.

In more than half a century walking this planet, I have never known a more profoundly touching moment than when Anton’s 1970s comrades, torment etched into ageing features, came to the altar to the salute their fallen companion.

Some of them limped, some struggled with ailment, but when they came together, when the first bars of music filled the packed church, they were again the mighty force that went toe-to-toe with Micko's Kerry.

With Mary Black leading, these Croke Park giants of almost half a century hence, titans who gifted a struggling city a sustaining parcel of self-esteem, delivered an achingly beautiful rendition of Dublin in the Rare Oul Times.

“Ring a ring a rosie, as the lights decline

I remember Dublin city in the rare oul times…”

I swear, Anton, was alive amongst us.

And the tears bounced like footballs off every pew in Mount Argus.

Music and sport.

It is true that there are some truly awful alliances: Twickenham’s self-satisfied Swing Low comes across as a study in English public-school smugness.

The ghastly Ireland’s Call has all the warmth of a dentist’s drill.

But the flip side: The Fields of Athenry washing over Thomond Park on the night Munster remembered Anthony Foley. La Marseillaise thundering through the Paris night, evocative and mind-bending and inspirational.

I can recall still the late, lamented Clarendon Bar, a Banner embassy just off Grafton Street, on the immortal 1995 September Sunday night Ger Loughnane led his people beyond Biddy Early's curse to a place of rapture.

A man with a lived in face that had witnessed at least four score years, flat-cap on his head, half-drunk pint in his bony hand, was ushered to the centre of the floor.

As he let flow a haunting version of “My Lovely Rose of Clare”, there wasn’t another sound in the crammed bar.

Except the sobbing and keening, as men and women from Sixmilebridge and Ennis and Doolin and Clarecastle, their hearts bursting with the vigour of belonging, let the song wash over them in a giant wave, engulfing them in joy.

It was gorgeous.

Jurgen Klopp is an unashamedly emotional man.

He understood immediately the bone-deep connection between Liverpool’s players and support, a bond that finds its voice when Anfield loses itself in Gerry and the Pacemakers version of the tune from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel.

“When you walk through a storm

Hold your head up high

And don’t be afraid of the dark…”

Even those of us who don’t worship at the Anfield altar can sense the power inherent in those words.

Whether a player in the arena or fan on the sideline, it is hard to imagine more comforting or life-affirming message than Gerry Marsden’s soaring chorus.

Because what is that hypnotic charge a supporter feels on first stepping onto a terrace to begin what is an often maddening, frequently frustrating - but always sustained by the promise of an eternal day in the sun - journey of a lifetime?

It is surely the understanding that there is something uniquely intoxicating about never walking alone.

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